Book Reviews: Four Young Adult Titles
Dragons, kick-arse heroines and mystical beings abound in the final round of YA reviews for 2018, reviewed by Kylie Parry.
Cassie Clark: Outlaw, by Brian Falkner (OneTree House)
Action, adventure, a kick-arse teenage girl hero? Sign me up. I love to see books like this in the market.
Cassie Clark has had a bad few days. While recovering in hospital from a hit and run accident she gets the news that her Dad (US Speaker of the House) is missing. The media seem to think that he’s run off with a journalist and is holed up somewhere in a love nest. Cassie isn’t convinced and with the help of her very good-looking bodyguard Cam, heads off to find the truth. It isn’t long before she is up to her armpits in danger and conspiracy theories. There’s even a tinfoil hat reference.
The story moves at breakneck action movie pace. It does pause, though, to explore Cassie’s complicated relationship with her family. Returning home after her father’s disappearance, Cassie finds a less than warm welcome. Her sister, who stayed at home with their difficult mother, has some pretty strong feelings about Cassie and her need to investigate their missing father. For those who prefer not too much in the way of family drama, fear not, the story is soon back to being an action-packed romp.
The story moves at breakneck action movie pace. It does pause, though, to explore Cassie’s complicated relationship with her family.
Brian Falkner uses a combination of longer descriptive moments, followed by short choppy sentences. The result made me feel a little seasick but should have appeal for readers who just like a story to get to the point already. I liked the short chapters though and they fit well into the pace and style of the book.
Much as I enjoyed the premise, sadly the relationships never felt real to me. Cassie is an archetypal teenage girl action hero. She’s sassy, tough and determined. It frustrated me that she never felt like a real teenage girl. I wanted to like her and I really want to see more young female characters saving the world/country /universe.
This is a fast moving, easy to read action adventure story and I hope Cassie has more books to evolve and grow within.
cassie clark: outlaw by Brian Falkner Published by OneTree House RRP: $24.99
Ocean’s Kiss, by Lani Wendt Young (OneTree House)
This is the supernatural romance series we need. Beautifully written, a romance that feels real, Pasifika mythology and characters that spring off the page. I wish that all the YA supernatural romances I’ve read were this good. Don’t start with Ocean’s Kiss like I have though, it’s the fifth book of the series and I know that I missed a lot of the back story. Get your hands on the whole series and read them before passing them to your nearest teenager.
Ocean’s Kiss continues the story of Daniel who featured in earlier books. Leila and Daniel are now married and adjusting to their new life without the powers that previously defined them. On the surface everything seems to be going well but Daniel is troubled by dreams of his family. Their quiet new life is rocked when a stranger with a very familiar face appears at their door.
Their quiet new life is rocked when a stranger with a very familiar face appears at their door.
Leila is having to get her head around the considerable changes that the loss of their powers and their marriage has brought. The impact of the changes on her relationship with her friends and with her new husband Daniel would be complicated enough. The sudden emergence of the familiar stranger adds even further emotional layers to deal with.
At its heart though this book primarily tells the story of Daniel’s family. It switches perspectives between the past and present which is a technique I usually find deeply annoying. Often one of the narratives is far more interesting than the other one and I find myself skipping sections of the book. In this book I didn’t want to skip anything. The story set in the past was just as compelling as the present one. They intertwined beautifully.
The story set in the past was just as compelling as the present one. They intertwined beautifully.
As you’d hope there is also a return to the supernatural. It’s not so easy to just walk away when you have a family history that is entangled in power and conflict. Daniel is drawn back into the world he had put behind him. This builds to an epic battle with a satisfying conclusion.
This book made me smile and it made me want to find more about Pasifika mythology. It will be equally satisfying to both romance readers and fantasy readers. Lani Wendt Young is a name I will keep an eye out for in future. I’ll be tracking down the rest of the series for my summer reading pile.
by Lani Wendt Young
Published by OneTree House (print) RRP: $29.00
Ezaara (Riders of Fire, Book 1), by Eileen Mueller
When I was growing up I dreamt about having a dragon of my own. The idea of a beautiful, powerful dragon that I could talk to and have adventures with was compelling. I’ve never been very keen on heights mind you, so I’m not entirely sure that it would have worked so well… This is a dragon series for all those out there who shared my fantasy or are about to just discover that they too are dragon-obsessed. Ezaara is Book 1 of the Riders of Fire series.
Ezaara has grown up sheltered in Lush Valley with her twin brother Tomaaz. This is a community that fears and hates dragons and their riders. For Ezaara, a walk into the woods to collect some herbs leads to an abrupt change in her life when Zaarusha the Dragon Queen swoops in to imprint with her and take her back to be the new Queen's rider.
At this point in the book it’s basically my childhood fantasy come to life. It’s not so straightforward for Ezaara, however. Finding herself in an entirely new environment, she discovers hidden secrets about her parents and that not everyone in her new home is happy to see the Dragon Queen find a new rider from Lush Valley.
Finding herself in an entirely new environment, she discovers hidden secrets about her parents and that not everyone in her new home is happy to see the Dragon Queen find a new rider...
A Dragon Master to train her seems just what she needs. However her trainer Roberto is not without his own complications and motivations. The relationship between Roberto and Ezaara becomes a core part of the story.
While she trains and adjusts to her new life it becomes increasingly clear that the politics of the realm are even more dangerous than the Tharuks that Ezaara was trained to fight. Betrayal, politics, and working out who to trust while protecting the realm doesn’t make for an easy ride.
This world setting will feel very familiar to those who have already read a lot of children’s or young adult fantasy. It will comfortably sit on the bookshelf next to the other dragon-based fantasy that fans will have read, with the bonus of being written by a local author.
While I no longer dream of dragons, it’ll be a good fit for those who do.
Ezaara (Riders of Fire, Book 1) by Eileen Mueller
Published by Phantom Feather Press
Dragon Hero (Riders of Fire, Book 2), by Eileen Mueller
Dragon Hero begins at the same time as Ezaara. This time we get to experience the adventure from the perspective of her twin brother Tomaaz. Left with his parents after Ezaara has been taken by the Dragon Queen, Tomaaz finally finds out the truth of their background and how their family came to be living in Lush Valley. When his mother decides to go and find his missing sister Tomaaz and his father are left to face the accusations of villagers who now believe the family to be dragon lovers. Their situation becomes even more desperate as the village is attacked by tharuks.
The threat that the tharuks and their leader Zens pose to the realm is building. Simultaneously the continued political machinations back at Dragon’s hold are still posing an added threat to the stability and future of the realm. Tomaaz has to cope as the world and family history he thought he knew is challenged at every level.
The unsettled past of the twins' parents was touched on in Book 1 but is fleshed out in Dragon Hero. This is as much (if not more) their story as it is Tomaaz’s. Separated by circumstances for much of the story the parents have to work through the impact of their past choices on themselves, their children and the community they left.
Separated by circumstances for much of the story the parents have to work through the impact of their past choices on themselves, their children and the community they left.
This combination of Tomaaz’s journey and the history and potential redemption of the parents makes for a lot of character complexity in a confined space. I found myself wishing that the parent’s story had been told in a separate book. I like Tomaaz as a character and would have preferred that he didn’t have to share so much of his story with his parents.
Eileen Mueller has built a world with well fleshed characters, plenty of intrigue and as many dragons as you could want. Readers that loved book 1 won’t be disappointed and can experience that reassuring feeling of returning to familiar and loved characters. For me it feels like the series is only just warming up into itself. It’ll be interesting to see where Book 3 takes us.
dragon hero (Riders of Fire, Book 2) by Eileen Mueller Published by Phantom Feather Press RRP $26.00
Kylie Parry works in a school and writes for Junior Journal and Ready to Read. She lives with far too many pets and likes to collect odd facts and rejections from publishers. In her spare minutes she writes picture book manuscripts and parents.